Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN)

I. What They Do

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses (LPNs/LVNs) do not work independently, but are supervised by a Registered Nurse (RN). Physicians and RNs determine courses of patient care; an LPN’s job is to assist patients in carrying out these instructions.

All aspiring LPNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination ( NCLEX-PN — not to be confused with the NCLEX-RN), as well as an individual state licensure exam. Diploma and certificate programs that prepare LPNs can be completed in a year, and cover basic biology, pharmacology, and nursing skills. Two- or four-year nursing programs can qualify graduates to specialize in certain patient populations, or become RNs.

Daily Responsibilities

  • Work closely with patients and nursing staff to execute patient care plans
  • Cleaning wounds and changing bandages
  • Assisting with bathing, dressing or feeding
  • Monitoring vital signs
  • Reporting patient status and needs to nurses and physicians

Ideal Candidates

  • Strong and able-bodied, with no difficulty helping unsteady patients walk
  • Function well in highly stressful situations
  • Work quickly and cleanly, can maintain focus on a patient from one task to another
  • Patient and empathetic, able to sense when something isn’t right or when patients feels unsafe

Work Environment

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Assisted living homes
  • Hospice facilities
  • Correctional institutions
  • Other long-term care facilities

II. Career Outlook

The need for LPNs in nursing homes, hospitals, and long-term care is growing quickly because the size and average age of the U.S. patient population is set to rise over the next decade.

Job Growth

LPNs are in such demand that they have considerable work opportunities across the U.S. Some states, however, offer more positions or better pay than others; this may reflect population trends or individual state performance requirements for LPNs.

Projected Job Growth for LPNs/LVNs, 2012-2022

The growth will be 25%, which is faster than the 19% growth projected for RNs and the 11% average for all positions.

Metro Areas with Highest Number of LPNs/LVNs Employed
Metro Area Number of LPNs/LVNs Employed
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics. Accessed May 2014.
New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ 20,480
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA 20,010
Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX 12,920
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL 11,260
Philadelphia, PA 10,250

LPN/LVN Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), LPNs made an average annual salary of $42,910 in 2013. Regardless of employer, this LPN salary is stable across the industry and has been steadily rising since 2007:

Average Annual LPN Salaries Since 2007
Year Average Annual Salary
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Annual Occupation Profiles. Accessed May 2014.
2007 $38,940
2009 $40,900
2011 $42,040
2013 $42,910

States with the Highest Average Salaries for LPNs in 2013

III. How to Become One

Education Requirements

LPNs need a diploma or certificate from a program that has been approved by the state’s nursing board. Most often, these take one year to complete.

Some LPNs choose to further their education; many schools offer degree programs tailored to LPNs who aspire to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). This can be a useful option for students who want to work as nursing professionals while they earn their bachelor’s degree.

Certification Requirements

There is no job experience required for licensed LPNs. It’s important to note, though, that a diploma from a degree program is not enough for legal employment; all nursing professionals must take the NCLEX and the certification examinations required by their state.

Visit our state pages to learn more about opportunities and salaries for LPNs/LVNs in your area and to contact your state’s board of nursing to learn more about credentialing processes.